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Election

Two Missoulians and a Trout Creek resident are running for Montana’s Public Service Commission in District 4.

Although it’s too early to formally file, both Will Deschamps and Daniel Carlino of Missoula, as well as Webb Brown in Sanders County, recently announced their candidacies for the district, which includes Missoula, Ravalli, Granite, Powell, Mineral, Sanders and Lincoln counties. Currently, Ravalli County resident Bob Lake represents the district, but the two-term Republican is prohibited by law from running a third time.

Brown, a Republican, is the former head of the Montana Chamber of Commerce and a longtime Trout Creek rancher. According to his website, he is running for the PSC with a focus on keeping rates "reasonable and fair," and he told the Missoulian he wants to give back to Montana as a commissioner all that the state has provided for him.

He added that with the rapid changes in the telecommunication industry, the PSC needs to strategically plan for future developments. His "sharp pencil" approach to rate proposals and regulation, based on his business experience, will help Montanans, Brown said.

"I come from the business world … and can bring business sense to the actual job the PSC does in regulating utilities and making sure the rates are the best they can be," Brown said. "We need to plan for the future. I'm not sure there's been enough thought about what we are going to look like in the future."

Carlino is a Democrat and climate activist who interned with the Sierra Club and worked with Environment Montana, which is a citizen-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting air, water and open spaces. He posted on his Facebook page that he’s running for PSC to stop “allowing unnecessary pollution of the land” and said the environmental community is frustrated with the current PSC's favoring of large utilities instead of ratepayers and Montanans.

"Their decisions have been holding us back in getting clean energy in Montana," Carlino told the Missoulian on Monday. "We're seeing injustices with the current system for providing clean air and clean water for Montanans. We're feeling helpless sometimes as climate leaders and environmental leaders with our politicians not being held accountable."

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Deschamps possibly is best known for serving as the Montana Republican Party chairman from 2009 to 2015. He’s a lifelong Montanan and a Marine Corps veteran.

Deschamps didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment about the race.

But in a statement on his website deschampsforpsc.com, Deschamps wrote he "has worked closely with members of Montana's alternative energy industry and will bring to the PSC an abiding interest in balancing the private sector's need to make a profit with Montana ratepayers' need for affordable, sustainable rates."

The five elected PSC commissioners generally regulate private or investor-owned natural gas, electric, water, sewer and telephone companies, as well as certain kinds of motor carriers, like garbage trucks and passenger motor carriers and rail and pipeline safety regulations. Much of their oversight involves how much consumers pay for private utilities.

Along with Lake, Commissioner Roger Koopman in District 3, which generally includes southwest Montana, is prohibited from running for a third term. The District 2 candidate, Tony O’Donnell, is expected to seek a second term. That district includes southeast Montana, including Billings.

Districts 1 and 5 are not part of the 2020 election cycle.

Candidates can officially declare their candidacy for the PSC Jan. 9, 2020. That’s followed by the filing deadline of March 9, with the primary scheduled for June 2 and the general election on Nov. 3.

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